LAS VEGAS — Mike Babcock said there will be pain.
We’ll soon find out whether Brendan Shanahan and the Maple Leafs are ripping off the band-aid, or tugging at it ever so gingerly, as trade chatter heats up with the league’s 30 general managers convening here Tuesday for the NHL Awards.
Sources say there are deals to be had for Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf ahead of Friday’s draft in South Florida, two names headlining TSN’s 2015 Draft Trade Bait board.
The belief is Shanahan and assistant GM / trade point person Kyle Dubas are holding out for a better return for Phaneuf than what was on the table last season. The framework for that potential deal included discussions about a package that included defenceman Brendan Smith, winger Teemu Pulkkinen, and a heavy contractual hit in Stephen Weiss. The Red Wings balked when the Leafs inquired about making a first-round pick or prospect Anthony Mantha part of the trade.
Months later, Babcock is in Toronto, and the Red Wings are reportedly no longer in the market for Phaneuf, who Detroit management has decided is too expensive in both term and money.
Moving Kessel – whom Babcock has yet to meet face to face - may be more complicated, solely based on his limited no-trade clause. Kessel is required to submit a list of eight destinations - usually updated each July - to which he would accept a trade.
According to TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, Kessel’s list includes Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
New Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney surely isn’t going down the Kessel road, even if he could afford it. The other seven clubs all have significant salary cap constraints - with Kessel being a pipedream to add for the Blackhawks, Kings, Canadiens, Wild and Rangers.
Of course, Kessel’s list could also change with a phone call. One team believed to be kicking the tires on Kessel are the Calgary Flames, whose president, Brian Burke, traded for Kessel in Toronto.
The NHL’s trade market could break open well before Toronto decides what to do with Kessel or Phaneuf. Edmonton, Buffalo and San Jose are hot for Rangers’ backup goaltender Cam Talbot. A Talbot trade could set off a domino effect on a teeming goalie market.
The Senators are shopping one of Robin Lehner or Craig Anderson and Dallas starter Kari Lehtonen is available. Calgary is willing to move Jonas Hiller. One of Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom is likely leaving Vancouver. Plus, the Ducks (John Gibson) and the Kings (Martin Jones) are toying with the idea of moving their backups.
Last July 1, there was a run on free agent goaltenders, with seven signed in a span of a little over an hour. Once Talbot moves, the focus will likely shift to Lehner. Senators general manager Bryan Murray certainly wants a better return than Cory Conacher and the fourth-round pick he received from Tampa Bay for Ben Bishop at 2013’s trade deadline.
Calgary, Dallas and San Jose are also in the market for a goaltender. Philadelphia needs a backup for Steve Mason.
And with little progress being made so far in Minnesota, Vezina Trophy finalist Devan Dubnyk could be in play for the second straight July 1. In 2014, 10 goaltenders were plucked off the market before Arizona signed Dubnyk for $800,000 - which will be a small percentage of what Dubnyk earns next season. Dubnyk is reportedly seeking $5 million-plus.
Here is a look at TSN’s top players in play, including impending pending UFAs Mike Green and Matt Beleskey, whose rights could be traded.
Players are sorted by cap hit or average annual value (AAV). Also included are remaining contract years:
TRADE BAIT BOARD